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The habitat is the basic unit for developments in life history, population dynamics, landscape ecology and conservation of organisms. It is frequently treated as a particulate, invariant and homogeneous entity (a patch). Here we examine the implications of using this concept of habitat in butterfly biology. In doing so, we suggest the alternative approach of applying a functional resource-based concept of habitat. This recognises the fundamental requirements of organisms, consumables and utilities, the latter describing suitable environmental conditions as well as essential substrates. We argue that a resource-based concept is critical for butterfly conservation and call for the development of a resource database on butterfly biology.